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Revival: ‘extraordinary’ touch of God on ordinary church duties

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–Should God choose to awaken his church, the result will be not be a new experience, but rather an outpouring of God’s power on the faithful ministry of his Word, author and editor John Armstrong declared during a conference on biblical revival.
“Revival is the extraordinary movement of the Holy Spirit producing extraordinary results,” the former Wheaton, Ill., pastor told those attending the Nov. 15 conference at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. “It is not, as it were, creating a second-level Christianity, or a kind of Christianity in its essence and its definition that is different than what preceded it in seasons of non-revival.”
Speaking at the invitation of the Center for Biblical Revival at the Kansas City, Mo., seminary, Armstrong addressed the need for and characteristics of genuine awakening. The author of “A View of Rome” and “Can Fallen Pastors Be Restored?” identified revival with the “times of refreshing” described by Peter as following repentance in Acts 3:19. He said biblical revival is a demonstration of God’s power through the normative functions of the church.
“It is the work of the church to preach the gospel; to make disciples; to baptize those disciples; to celebrate the Lord’s death until he comes in the appointed means of the Lord’s table; to discipline the flock,” Armstrong told listeners. “To do these things is the requirement of every faithful church. Your church ought to be doing all of these things now, whether you’re seeing revival or not. Those are the normative functions of New Testament congregations.”
Armstrong, who serves as editor of Reformation and Revival Journal, proposed the neglect of the gospel in modern evangelical thinking has given rise to the need for revival. He quoted at length Raymond Ortland Jr., professor of Old Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, who proposed such concerns as the pro-life cause, church growth, the family and spiritual gifts can, and in fact have, replaced the gospel at the center of evangelical Christianity. Even elements of Reformed theology, Armstrong said, can become substitutes for the gospel.
“I am utterly convinced we do not understand the gospel,” Armstrong explained. “And I would go so far as to say that I’m utterly convinced that many in the so-called Reformed direction of the church theologically may understand the gospel, but don’t preach the gospel. What they are preaching oftentimes are the attendants to the gospel. They think that preaching election, for example, is preaching the gospel. It’s not.
“A friend of mine said the doctrines of grace are like the plumbing in your house: a necessary item to keep the house functioning. The house will become rancid and difficult to live in and have a lot of other problems without the plumbing, and that’s kind of how I think about a lot of churches today, without that kind of plumbing system. But you don’t invite guests into your house and say, ‘Let us show you our plumbing system.'”
Should reformation and revival come in such a manner that large numbers of the lost were converted, Armstrong said, it would find a ripe harvest field within the churches themselves.
“It’s quite evident that in our own history at least, large numbers of professing Christians inside the visible churches have been often the first wave of converts,” Armstrong noted. “I think it would be the case if we had such a visitation of the Spirit again. Given the statistics — given the hard realities of what is in evangelical churches in America — one would have to believe that one of the most fruitful fields of harvest in such a season would be within the church. I’m not even talking about the half of the denomination that doesn’t even come and can’t be found. I’m talking about regular people, Sunday Christians.”
Again quoting Ortland, Armstrong described three things which occur during authentic revival: the teaching of the great truths of the gospel with clarity; the applying of those truths to people’s lives with spiritual power; and the extending of such teaching and application to large numbers of people.
“What does Peter do at Pentecost?” Armstrong asked. “He preaches an ordinary sermon, a rather short sermon, a plain sermon, in which he expounds the principle that Jesus is the Christ of God. He preaches Christ, he preaches the death of Christ, he preaches the resurrection of Christ — and the power of the Spirit of God, equipping both the preacher and falling on the hearer, causes a large number of people to be converted with no invitation. In fact, the invitation that was given was given by the people: ‘What must we do to be saved?’
“Revival is Pentecost. It is the interruption and eruption by the sovereignty of God of Pentecostal blessing to the church that lives in the light and the shadow of Pentecost.”
Armstrong said he considered the condition of the church in the West to be evidence of God’s fatherly chastisement and judgment. However, he said, such judgment is proof of God’s love of his children, and that he desires for the church to be awakened and return to him. In light of this, he called believers to repentance and prayer.
“What must we do in the face of judgment? We must repent,” Armstrong said. “And we must do so with a great desire to correct all that is wrong.”
During the conference, Armstrong outlined five characteristics which are evident in revival. He described these as an evidence of God’s manifest presence; a powerful response to the preached Word of God; a deep awareness of sin resulting in profound confession; a reviving of church fellowship; and an empowerment to love the world. In all of these aspect, he noted, the emphasis is on bringing honor and glory to Christ.
He concluded by calling those in attendance to pray for God to send revival.
“It is fitting that I close with this pastoral encouragement: That you go back to your homes and the places from which you have come this day, encouraged to pray that God might rend the heavens by his Spirit, and glorify his Son in the affections of his people through the preaching of his Word and the worship of Zion,” Armstrong said. “May God encourage us to do just that — to seek him and to pray.”

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  • Clinton Wolf